A MILITARY enthusiast who landed a role in a hit film alongside Hollywood star Brad Pitt has been jailed for possessing a banned weapon.
Kevin Burgon, 53, has had a “fascination” with the military since he was a teenager but turned his attentions to taking part in re-enactments after an accident, which led to him losing an eye when he was 17, ruled out any hopes of signing up for the army.
Burgon’s hobby led to him appearing in the 2007 war drama film Atonement, and more recently, a role as a tank driver in Fury alongside heart-throb Pitt, which is currently being shown in cinemas.
But he is today starting a sentence of more than three years behind bars after a court how a Beretta handgun and 49 rounds of ammunition were found lying on a bed at Old Bungalow Farm, Hartlepool, in May.
Teesside Crown Court heard that Burgon, of Dorchester Drive, Hartlepool, legitimately owned three weapons, which were Winchester, Springfield and Enfield rifles which were securely kept in a gun cabinet.
Firearms inspectors carried out regular routine checks at the farm and an arranged visit on May 13 found everything was in order with the storage of the guns and the licences attached to them.
But when police visited the address on an unrelated matter connected to someone else, the Beretta and ammunition was found under a throw on a bed.
The court heard Burgon had owned the gun for more than 20 years, but was in breach of gun licence laws after legislation changed back in 1994 following the Dunblane massacre.
Prosector Emma Atkinson said: “Everything was in order with the three rifles on the first visit, but the following day the police visited with a search warrant in relation to other people and discovered the Beretta and ammunition on the bed.
“The defendant said he knew it was illegal, but said the gun hadn’t been fired in more than 20 years and he had only removed it from the cabinet the day earlier when the routine inspection was carried out.
“He explained that he had a keen military interest and had owned this gun since the early 1990s.
“He said he didn’t shoot it, he was just interested in the mechanics of it.”
Defending, Andrew Teate, said: “This particular model was made in 1937, and was the weapon of choice for the Italian Army.
“It could be lawfully possessed in this country prior to the Dunblane massacre.”
Possession of the Beretta was made illegal in January 1994, then in April 2007 the law changed again to give judges the power of enforcing a minimum five-year sentence for anyone found with one unless there were “exceptional circumstances”.
Mr Teate added: “He is an individual of impeccable character. References describe him as a kind, honest, hard-working family man of the utmost integrity.
“He has a fascination with military, he worked on the film Atonement when it was filmed in Redcar, and also Fury which involves Brad Pitt and several Navy Seals.
“He is a tank driver in that film, such is his knowledge of that field.
“When this gun was discovered. He didn’t move to distance himself in any way.
“He knew having the weapon was illegal and he thought of disposing of it. He didn’t want to throw it in the sea or bury it anywhere where it could have fallen into the wrong hands.
“He was fearful of driving with it in his car in case he was stopped and it looked sinister.
“Even if he had handed it in, he would still have fallen foul of the law as he had no certificate for it.
“He knew the police were coming the day before, and he removed the weapon and the ammunition from the cabinet.
“The defendant had a total lack of criminal intent.”
Burgon had pleaded guilty to possession of a prohibited firearm and possession of ammunition without firearm certificates at a previous hearing on November 12.
Jailing him for three years and four months, Judge Howard Crowson said he had taken note of the early guilty pleas and 12 character references submitted as part of the defence case.
Judge Crowson said: “I accept you had no malicious intent with the gun, you are a man with interest of memorabilia of this type.
“But these are very serious offences, and you know the sentences in cases of this nature are particularly draconian unless there are truly exceptional circumstances.
“It is my duty to impose this sentence on you.”
The judge also ordered the gun and ammunition was forfeited and destroyed.